Kia e-Niro 64kWh '4' 201PS 1-speed automatic
The Kia e-Niro represents a major step forward in the goal to make pure-electric driving appeal to the masses. It looks like a ‘normal’ Niro, both inside and out. It features much of the same switchgear too, so doesn’t feel unfamiliar behind the wheel. A WLTP range of 282 miles will be enough for most people. Featuring all the usual Kia kit and caboodle, and costing less than £35k after government grant, you could almost call it affordable.
In order for electric cars to be a viable mass-market product, they need to blend into life in a seamless way. There is no denying that Tesla is a success story. But the styling of its cars are not to everyone’s taste. And by having looks that are a bit ‘out there’ can scare off some people who just want a ‘normal’ car.
The opposite is true of the Kia e-Niro. For the most part, it looks exactly the same as a ‘regular’ Niro, and that is meant as a compliment. There’s no attempt to stand out and be different and, as a result, the Kia is friendly and familiar.
If you know where to look, there are some unique styling features for the e-Niro. Most obvious is the lack of front grille with the charging socket in its place. There is, however, a dimpled texture to provide some resemblance to a traditional grille.
The front bumper features blue accents. These are unique to the e-Niro, and were a nice contrast to the dark grey paint of our test car.
17-inch alloy wheels make clever use of a two-tone colour scheme to disguise the closed design required to assist the regenerative braking system.
At the rear there’s not a lot going on besides the funky-shaped tail lights and some more blue accenting on the bumper. Look very closely and you’ll spot the small “eco electric” badge. Kia has done a fantastic job of not making a song and dance of the styling. This is merely an extension of the existing Niro range.
This familiarity is equally evident once you step inside the e-Niro and take your seat. The cabin layout is traditional, there are no flamboyant 50-inch touchscreens or cameras replacing mirrors. If you have owned a Kia in recent years you will know where all the buttons are and what they do. If you haven’t owned a Kia in recent years, you’ll soon figure it out.
To Kia’s credit, this isn’t some sort of eco-warrior cabin either. The e-Niro opts for ‘traditional’ materials of plastic, leather/leather-effect and a gloss black finisher. There’s no upcycled bamboo dashboard or seats made from used coffee cups. And that’s important in making the e-Niro appeal to the masses.
Having said that there is an issue with the cabin: it’s very dark. When you think of a pure-electric world, you think “light”, “airy” and “clean”. That was definitely true of the previous generation Kia Soul EV, with its light grey seats and interior plastics. A bit more of that here would have made a huge difference to the feel of the cabin.
In front of the driver is a fully-digital instrument cluster, but split into two dials and a central multi-function display. This may not provide the configurability and versatility of a singular display, but is crisp and clear nonetheless.
The seats are a perforated design with contrast piping and stitching. With a multi-panel design and reasonable bolsters they are easy on the eye. The same can’t be said of the door cards unfortunately, which feature too much black plastic with a desperate need for some softer-touch material and contrasting colour.
There’s not much to say about the engine in the Kia e-Niro because, well, there isn’t one. This is a pure-electric model, with a Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor and a 64kWh battery.
There is a lot of science behind these motors; and we won’t embarrass ourselves by trying to explain how they work. But they do. And these types of motors have been used in elevators since the turn of the millennium.
The power output is around 201PS and is available across a broad range of 3,800-8,000rpm. Torque is a staggering 395Nm and is available from 0-3,600rpm. Having peak torque available from the second you push the accelerator takes some getting used to, but means the e-Niro feels pretty sprightly.
You need only look to the performance figures to confirm that assertion. Stamp on the accelerator and the e-Niro will go from 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds which is ‘warm hatch’ territory. The top speed is 104mph.
Whilst the lack of an engine note is strange at first, you start to enjoy the whirring and whooshing that replaces it. From behind the wheel it makes for a relatively serene experience.
The Kia e-Niro uses a 1-speed transmission so the acceleration is completely uninterrupted. That’s part of the reason the 0-62mph time is lower than we might have expected.
Another thing which is strange at first is the regenerative braking. You may have noticed the paddles behind the steering wheel; these adjust the severity of the regenerative braking. In the strongest mode you can almost operate a one-pedal system; the deceleration is so strong. But it’s good that you can adjust the strength, so you can get used to the feeling over time.
With an electric motor and a load of battery, the e-Niro is a tad heavier than the entry level self-charging hybrid model. That’s perhaps an understatement, the e-Niro’s kerb weight of 1,812kg is some 300kg heavier than the 1,490kg of the 1.6 GDi.
You might think this would make the e-Niro a big, bumbling lump of a car, but it really doesn’t. The vast torque of that electric motor, from standstill, ensures that this Kia feels reasonably light and nimble.
For the most part, you wouldn’t notice it through the corners either. That’s mostly because this isn’t a car that urges you to throw it into bends at breakneck speeds. And at modest speeds the e-Niro is well-behaved.
In the essence of fair testing, we pushed harder than you realistically would in an e-Niro, and at this point you do feel the extra weight. There’s an element of lurching into corners, and it doesn’t feel natural. The steering is a little on the light side, and has no feel.
The other issue is that 395Nm of torque is more than enough to spin up the wheels should you accelerate hard out of a corner. That prompts the traction control system to step in, and your swift corner exit is interrupted.
The simple solution to this is to stick to modest speeds. Buying an electric car and driving it like a lunatic seems counterproductive to saving the world anyway. And on the motorway the e-Niro is comfortable, so don’t for a second think this is a car for short trips only.
That motorway comfort is important too, because the Kia e-Niro has the range to take on longer journeys…
In order for electric cars to become viable for the masses, they have to have a decent range. A few years ago, cars like the BMW i3 had a range of 110 miles or so. That made them great city cars, but no use for longer commutes.
Fast forward to the present day, and everything has changed. That same car, the BMW i3, now has a range up to 180 miles. Not a bad range, but one that is truly eclipsed by the Kia e-Niro. Under the more stringent – and thankfully, more realistic – WLTP testing regime the e-Niro has a range of 282 miles.
That’s certainly far enough to allow the Kia to appeal to the masses. It is likely to be a viable option for the majority of households. There are several charging options for the e-Niro. Using a 3-pin plug at home, 0-100% takes around 29 hours. Get yourself a 7kW charging box at home and that drops to 10 hours.
The Kia e-Niro also supports rapid charging. Go to a 50kW charger and you can get a 20%-80% charge in 50 minutes; the equivalent of 100 mile range in 30 minutes. Given that these rapid chargers are now popping up everywhere, they’re easy to find. For me, I could park up at the local Booths, plug in, and by the time I’d done a spot of grocery shopping it would be nicely topped up. Simple.
Naturally CO2 emissions are 0g/km meaning there is currently no VED to pay in the first or subsequent years. The Kia e-Niro is also a superb choice for company car drivers, with a benefit-in-kind (BIK) rate of 0%, 1% and 2% for years 2020/21, 2021/22 and 2022/23 respectively.
Being a crossover, the Kia e-Niro is a practical family car. Being that little big bigger allows it to house the larger batteries that enable the impressive range, whilst maintaining a spacious cabin.
In fact, the e-Niro is the most spacious of the Niro range. That’s simply because it has one powertrain, whereas the self-charging hybrid and plug-in hybrid both have an engine and an electric motor.
Boot space on the e-Niro is a generous 451 litres with the rear seats up, and a cavernous 1,405 litres with them folded down. Considering a Ceed hatchback boasts 395 and 1,291 litres respectively, the e-Niro is impressive in this regard.
It’s the same story in the cabin. There is plenty of room throughout. Front seat passengers have ample head and leg room, and there is enough space for three adults in the back in reasonable comfort. Even tall adults will be happy with the outer rear seats; there is an abundance of leg room.
It’s not hard to live with the e-Niro either. This is not a scarily unfamiliar car, with screens dotted everywhere with some space-age interface. In fact it’s just like any other Kia. Not only does that mean it’s loaded with tech – more on that in a moment – but also that it is designed around family life.
That means whether it be the school run, a day out or even a weekend away, the Kia e-Niro will be a great companion.
We’ve come to expect great things of Kia when it comes to specification. Kia adopts the approach of scrapping options lists and enhancing standard specification. This makes life easier for us as reviewers: what you see is what you get.
For the Kia e-Niro it’s easier still because, at the time of writing, there is just one model to choose from. Called the ‘4’ it is usually one of the range-topping models, so you will not be disappointed with the amount of tech.
It is worth knowing that some of the more luxurious creature comforts are omitted. With everything drawing off the battery, Kia has chosen to balance the specification to maximise range. And let’s be honest; will you really miss the heated outer rear seats? Or the power tailgate? Probably not.
Not least because of all the equipment you do get. There is far too much to list here, but here are some of the highlights.
For comfort and convenience you get keyless entry and go, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, auto lights and auto wipers.
On the audio-visual front you get an 8-speaker JBL premium sound system which incorporates satellite navigation, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, voice control and a wireless charging pad.
The Kia e-Niro has a five star Euro NCAP safety rating, thanks in part to an impressive array of safety kit. In addition to the usual anti-lock braking system and electronic stability control, you get forward collision-avoidance assist with autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist system, blind spot detection with cross traffic alert and emergency stop signalling.
Value For Money
The final hurdle for us to declare the Kia e-Niro as having mass-market viability comes with the price. That is always going to be a subjective matter, but let’s dive in nonetheless.
With only one trim level to choose from, there isn’t a lot to think about. The list price of the Kia e-Niro 64kWh ‘4’ is £37,995. At present, the Government will contribute £3,000 to the cost of the car through what’s known as the Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG). So the price of the e-Niro becomes £34,995.
To some that will seem too expensive; there are cheaper cars out there that can offer similar range. But when you consider the spaciousness of the e-Niro, and all the equipment it has, there are fewer cars that can compete.
The closest challenger is the Hyundai Kona Electric; hardly surprising given that it uses much of the same running gear. The Hyundai is a little more expensive than the Kia, meaning you get slightly better value here.
But it’s not just the purchase price you have to consider, but the running costs. The cost per mile of electricity will be much lower than petrol, even using the more expensive public rapid chargers. VED is currently zero, and with the Government trying to coax people into these cars we would expect it to stay that way for the foreseeable.
All things considered, the Kia e-Niro is one of the first pure electric cars which we would consider owning, but could also afford. And that’s a big step forward for the electric car; starting to win over petrolheads…
Facts and Figures
|Engine||Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor; 64kWh Li-ion polymer battery|
|Max power||201PS at 3,800-8,000rpm|
|Max torque||395Nm at 0-3,600rpm|
|Drivetrain||1-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive|
|Fuel tank size||N/A litres|
|Fuel consumption||149Wh/km (282 mile range) combined, WLTP|
|CO2 emissions||0g/km WLTP|
|Towing capacity||N/A braked / N/A unbraked|
|Luggage capacity||451 litres|
|NCAP rating||5 stars|
|Base price||£34,995 after £3,000 Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG)|
|Price as tested||£34,995|